Mental health days provide people with the space to be productive, creative problem solvers.
That’s according to a Richmond, Virginia-based therapist named Mark Loewen. He noted that shifting focus away from work helps the brain reboot.
“The problem is that we figuratively overheat certain parts of the brain,” Loewen told Business Insider. “Disconnecting from one thing to focus on something else literally makes different areas of the brain light up.”
Another therapist based in Richmond, Virginia, Nicole O-Pries, said teleworkers might not currently be taking time off because the pandemic limits travel. Nonetheless, our minds need a break, O-Pries said.
“Even if stepping away doesn’t mean stepping away from your home,” O-Pries added, “stepping away from the work within your home is really important.”
Here are seven therapist-backed tips for taking mental health days while working remotely.
1. Delete your social media apps
Therapist Nicole O-Pries said that everyone can benefit from unplugging from social media during a day off. During a mental health day, it’s important to step away from your normal routine, which, for many of us, means routinely checking social media.
One way to stay off the apps, she said, is by temporarily deleting them from your phone.
2. Consider taking multiple days off
Sometimes, one day just isn’t enough time to rest, O-Pries told Business Insider. O-Pries recommends correlating your day off with a weekend, or even taking both a Friday and the following Monday off.
“My own friends found themselves having a completely different outlook on their work after taking four days off,” she added. “They were feeling so much better about the space they were working in without even leaving their home during their break.”
3. Set a timer to unplug
Therapist Mark Loewen recommends take a break from screens altogether during a mental health day.
“We are on them even more now than we were before,” he added.
Loewen suggests taking blocks of time during the day to not check your phone. Try setting a timer on your phone, and then don’t check on it until the timer goes off. How long you do this for is up to you, he said. Loewen added that another option would be to only communicate via text for the entire day, leaving email and social media unchecked.
For those worried about missing an important news item, Loewen suggests coordinating with a friend. Before your time off, ask a friend, “If something big happens, can you let me know?” he said.
4. Go outside
“Studies show that just looking at nature calms our brain,” Loewen told Business Insider. Loewen recommends taking the time to observe outdoor spaces. Take a good look at the world around you, from the birds to the flowers. Listen for different sounds. Notice sensations in your body.
Loewen added that he sometimes sets a timer on his phone for five or 10 minutes to sit and observe nature.
“Getting outside can be really helpful for the spirit,” O-Pries added.
5. Reconsider your workspace
O-Pries recommended that people spend some time during their day off evaluating their home and work environment.
She said that slight changes, like rearranging your space or adding some plants, can help you feel like you’re in a better environment once you return to work.
6. Reach out to friends
Working from home has been particularly hard on single people, O-Pries said.
To combat loneliness, O-Pries recommends reaching out to someone for a socially distanced outdoor hangout. Consider setting up some chairs with six feet between them or going for a walk with a loved one.
7. Recognize that the day off will help you improve your productivity at work
If you feel guilty about taking the day off, O-Pries and Loewen both recommend taking a step back to recognize a few things.
It’s important to remember that when you are in the office, you most likely are not constantly working, Loewen said. You take breaks and you talk to colleagues. When you are at home, Loewen said to think more about the tasks and goals you need to accomplish and less about how much time you actually spend working.
O-Pries added that taking the time to take care of yourself often leads to increased productivity at work. Recognize that while you are taking the day for yourself, you are also taking it for your work.
“You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help somebody else when you’re on an airplane,” O-Pries told Business Insider. “And the same is true for our work.”